AJ Crawdaddy – Steppin’ Out!
11 Tracks – 50 minutes
With his third solo album, guitarist Angelo Rossi, aka AJ Crawdaddy, continues his exploration of the blues music genre. He got a three year taste of the spotlight in the early 1980s when he joined the hit-making pop group Pablo Cruise. After a long hiatus, Crawdaddy returned to the music business in 2015 with his independent release, Vaporized.
For his latest project, he joined a long list of artists who have entrusted the brilliant Kid Andersen and his Greaseland Studios to make their musical vision come to life. In addition to recording and producing the album, Andersen also contributes on guitar, bass, Hammond B3 organ, and Wurlitzer piano. Crawdaddy is featured on guitar as well as lead vocal on four cuts.
Several members of the backing band have played on all of three of Cradaddy’s recent releases – Baxter Robertson on piano and vocals, Jim Dewrance on vocals and harmonica, Greg Jones on bass and Peter Booras on drums. June Core and Donnie Green also contribute on drums. The horn section features returnees Michael Peloquin on tenor saxophone and Marcel Marchetti on trumpet, plus Doug Rowan on baritone sax and Mike Rinta on trombone.
On the opener, guest vocalist Marcel Smith gives “Big Hurt” a deep, soulful sound, his mournful cries answered by Crawdaddy’s cutting guitar licks. Smith makes another appearance on the closer, “Rain Of Tears,” one of three songs recycled from the Vaporized recording. He once again draws listeners in, his exceptional voice giving them a palpable sense of the sorrow and heartache portrayed in the lyrics. Lisa Leuschner Andersen helps out on backing vocals. John Blues Boyd takes listeners down in the alley on a B.B. King slow blues, “Ten Long Years,” his raw vocals matched by the intensity of the bent notes Crawdaddy elicits from his guitar.
“Steppin’ Out” is one of four tracks with the leader taking over the lead vocal role, sharing the spotlight with Andersen on the Hammond organ and another guest, Quique Gomez, blowing sweet harmonica accompaniment. The band tears through a cover of “Bony Moronie,” Crawdaddy’s vocal exuding a sense of calm in contrast to the wild sounds surrounding him. “Mean Man” has plenty of six string fireworks wrapped around a brawny tenor solo from Peloquin. Fans of Little Milton will recognize “That’s What Love Will Do”. Crawdaddy may not have Milton’s vocal skills, but the arrangement brings out the best in his singing style.
The proceedings shift gears on a cover of Frank Frost’s “My Back Scratcher,” with Dewrance on vocals and harmonica, the band laying down a slinky, belly-rubbing groove that harks back to the Slim Harpo sound. Dewrance is also featured on “Country Girl (Home At Last),” a tight, Chicago-style shuffle with Robert Welsh setting the mood with some usual fine piano playing. Robertson gives Johnny Taylor’s “Need Another Favor” a solid reading while Crawdaddy takes his time on his solo segment, slipping in some references to the B.B. King style.
Blues Blast senior writer Marty Gunther found plenty to like on Slow Cookin’, Crawdaddy’s previous release. The guitarist keeps the streak going, putting together another strong offering built around his incisive fretwork. Andersen once again brings all of the pieces together to frame each song in a glorious mix that allows listeners to appreciate each and every contribution.
It sure sounds like everybody had a whole lot of fun recording this project. You owe to yourself to check it out!